RIM: BlackBerry not a 'shrinking' platform

With growing subscribers and its appstore touted as second only to Apple, Research In Motion remains confident BlackBerry has integral role to play in smartphone market, say company execs.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Research In Motion (RIM) gained over 20 million new subscribers on its BlackBerry platform in the past year, and its BlackBerry App World is the second-most lucrative market for app developers. With these in mind, and with its "transformational" BlackBerry 10 operating system still to come, company executives are bullish over RIM's future.

According to George Staikos, vice president for Web technologies at RIM, the Canadian handset maker had grown its BlackBerry subscriber base from over 50 million this time last year to over 70 million in 2011. Additionally, there are now more than 50 million BlackBerry Messenger users and the BlackBerry App World has crossed 1 billion in terms of downloads, pointed out Staikos, who was speaking at RIM's second DevCon Asia held here on Wednesday.

The company's vice president for developer relations and ecosystem development, Alec Saunders, also cited a Yankee Group report which pointed to the BlackBerry App World as the second-most profitable app market above Google's Android Market. BlackBerry apps, in general, generate 40 percent more revenue than Android apps, added Saunders, who was a conference speaker.

In Asia, the BlackBerry handset is the leading smartphone in markets including Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, added Greg Wade, regional managing director of East Asia at RIM, who also spoke at the conference.

The executives were keen to "debunk the myths" such as talk that the BlackBerry platform was a "shrinking" one, that no one uses apps on their RIM devices, and BlackBerry apps do not make money for developers.

However, the outlook for the Canadian phonemaker remains bleak. A ZDNet Asia report on Monday cited RIM to say that it will not meet its full-year financial targets primarily because of the service outage its customers experienced in October, as well as the decision to cut the price of its PlayBook tablet.

Next-generation mobile platform
According to the RIM executives, though, the company is hoping its upcoming BlackBerry operating system (OS)--BlackBerry 10--will help stem the tide of shrinking market share and revenues.

Staikos said BlackBerry 10 OS would combine both its existing BlackBerry OS and QNX technology, which is the basis of its BlackBerry PlayBook OS. This, he added, is the company's vision for the "next-generation mobile platform" that would meld mobile and social elements into a single, converged system.

BlackBerry 10 is now the official name for the OS after the initial name, BBX, was subjected to a copyright lawsuit by software company, Basis International.

The decision follows a Reuters report on Wednesday which said RIM had persisted with using the term BBX in various events despite the ongoing lawsuit, which forced Basis to file a successful restraining order to stop RIM from using BBX specifically for the DevCon Asia 2011 conference.

With regard to what developers can look forward to in the BlackBerry 10 OS, Staikos said the system will be a "transformational development experience" as it bridges the gap between the native development framework and Web standards such as HTML 5 and JavaScript, on top of its WebWorks framework.

The native SDK (software development kit), in particular, will be boosted by technologies from The Astonishing Tribe, a Swedish mobile software design company it bought in November last year, he said.

Its Cascades graphics platform, which will headline the native SDK's features, will help graphic designers with little programming knowledge to improve an app's user interface via libraries of pre-programmed codes, for example, he added.

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